THE OLD SANTA CRUZ CITY JAIL
"In 1936 the Works Progress Administration provided funds for the construction of jail designed by Albert Roller at 705 Front Street, at a cost of $190,000 and built to hold 68 men and 8 women. As completion of construction neared the jail population was "dropping away so fast the sheriff and aides are fearful there will not be enough left to make a creditable showing by the time the building is accepted" causing the Sheriff to consider staging a round-up in the "jungles," private bingo parties, or drafting prominent citizens to stand in for prospective prisoners to make for a grand opening. The jail opened on December 13, 1937 with thirty-eight inmates. The Sheriff need not have worried about the population; by 1939 it was over its capacity, holding 82 prisoners.
In December 1972 a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of inmates over problems concerning overcrowding, inmate classification, medical care, inmate discipline, adequacy of the law library, and inmate visitation policies…"
Today, decorative architecture and too many trees hide inspired civic architecture.
I took a tour of the jail in 1989--a day before construction began on the conversion of the jail into an art museum. At that time, a chain link fence topped with barbed wire was attached to the parapet around the entire roof, affording the prisoners access to fresh air.
I kept a piece of that wire.
Ironically, I drew the structural drawings for the women's facility in the 90's, and soon after completion, a few inmates effected an escape by burning through a plastic skylight. I can't remember who the architect was, but it must have been a low point in his or her career.